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Senate Republicans propose increasing income cap on education freedom accounts


Republicans on the Senate Education Committee are proposing to increase eligibility for New Hampshire’s education freedom accounts – but not as ambitiously as the House would like.

In a late amendment to a related bill, Senate Bill 442, the committee is proposing to open the program to any families earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $124,800 in total household income for a family of four. The increase is less than the jump to 500 percent of the federal poverty level that has been advocated for – and passed – by House Republicans. 

Created in 2021, the education freedom accounts program allows families to use a portion of state education dollars for nonpublic school or home-school expenses. Currently, the program is restricted to children in households that earn up to 350 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $109,200 for a family of four. 

Republicans have championed the program as a way to give families alternatives to their local public schools if those schools do not work for their children. The funds provide an average of $4,600 per year per child, but that number varies depending on factors such as income level or need for special education services. 

Democrats have called the program an inappropriate use of state funds and said it will draw too much from the Education Trust Fund, the account used to fund the state’s annual allocations to public schools. That spending could make it harder to increase state funding to public schools in the future, Democrats warn.

Since the program launched, some Republicans have pushed for its expansion into higher income brackets. The Legislature raised the income cap from 300 percent of the federal poverty level to 350 percent in last year’s budget, and some Republicans have advocated that the cap be further expanded or eliminated altogether.

In February, the House passed House Bill 1665, which would increase the cap to 500 percent of the federal poverty level, or $156,000 per year for a family of four. The Senate has not yet taken up that bill, but will vote on its recommendation of 400 percent during its full session Friday. 

Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced a number of bills since 2021 that aim to either repeal, pare back, or more closely scrutinize the education freedom accounts program. 

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